Alexander Zverev earned his third straight victory against Rafael Nadal on Friday to reach his second Mutua Madrid Open semi-final.
The German rallied from 2-4 down in the first set to clinch his first clay-court win against the five-time Madrid champion 6-4, 6-4. Zverev also won the pair’s two most recent indoor hard-court meetings at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals and last year’s Rolex Paris Masters in straight sets.
“[It is] definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in his post-match interview. “Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”
Zverev, who is yet to lose a set this week, is two wins away from his second Madrid title. The 24-year-old owns a 13-2 record at La Caja Magica, highlighted by his run to the 2018 trophy when he did not drop his serve throughout the tournament.
Nadal played with consistent depth to extract Zverev errors and gain the first break of the match at 3-2, but Zverev responded immediately to claim four straight games and the opening set. The German caught Nadal out at the net with back-to-back passing shots at 4-2 and, two games later, he used his cross-court forehand to drag Nadal out of position and gain the decisive break.
Zverev Forehand Placement
– Graphic courtesy of Hawk-Eye Innovations/ATP Media
– Take a deep dive into this match with Match Insights powered by Infosys NIA
Zverev continued to pile the pressure on the top seed’s serve in the second set. Nadal was able to escape danger at 1-1 with an inspired drop shot, but Zverev stepped inside the baseline and dictated with his forehand to convert his next chance at 2-2. The World No. 6 maintained his advantage on serve and converted his first match point when Nadal fired a crosscourt forehand into the net.
“I had the match under control at the beginning, playing well for six games, probably playing better than him,” Nadal said. “In the 4-2 [game], serving for 5-2, I [had] a disaster. Another bad game with my game [from] 30/0. Of course, playing against one of the best players of the world, under these circumstances, with this speed of the court, [it] is very difficult to still [feel] confident. I tried, [but it] is true that the serve was difficult to control today. Well done [to] him.”
In a repeat of the 2018 championship match, Zverev will face third seed Dominic Thiem for a place in the final. Thiem recovered from a set down to defeat three-time Madrid quarter-finalist John Isner 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Thiem owns an 8-2 lead in his ATP Head2Head rivalry against Zverev, which includes a 4-1 record in clay-court encounters. In the pair’s most recent meeting, Thiem recovered from two sets and a break down against Zverev to win his maiden Grand Slam title at last year’s US Open.
“I know that I can do it [against Dominic],” Zverev said. “Everyone remembers the US Open final that we played. I remember it certainly and it is still going to be in the back of my mind when we play tomorrow. I am looking forward to the match.”